Claiming my space. This is such a common human instinct that it has its own name…, “Territorialism.”
Have you noticed if you’re at a Restaurant, the longer the line of people waiting for a table, the longer people linger at their table after they’ve finished their meal because they want it to be known, “This is my space!”
Nowhere is this, “Territorialism” a bigger problem than when it comes to Making Space for God in our Lives. There’s this subconscious little idea that we carry in our minds that goes…, “My life is so crammed that I must guard the boundaries of my life. So, I don’t have time to READ my Bible… PRAY at any really deep level… EXAMINE the condition of my character… INVEST into a deep, soul-friendship or to serve or to give.”
Let’s talk about a word that IS incredibly important… CAN liberate/free you… HELP you set the kind of boundaries that will lead to successful living, it’s the word, “NO.”
There was a time in your life when you loved this word, when you were about 2yrs-old you said this word so naturally and joyfully, “Share your toys,” ~ “No!” “Eat your peas,” ~”No!” “Take a nap,” ~ “No!”
Now, at the same time you learned to…, “No,” you also learned to dislike it when people told you “No.” We all learned early on that no one wants to hear the word, “No” and over time we learned that people like us better if we…, “Yes! I agree, or just say nothing.”
We learn to say, “Yes” in ways that create enormous problems…, “Yes” to SCHEDULES… OBLIGATIONS… BUYING stuff to impress people we barely know and don’t like, and eventually our lives become crammed, full of burdens, and we live exhausted, fatigued, resent-filled, Godless, little lives.
What we need is to learn the power of this little word, “No.”
There’s an author/daughter of a well-known pastor…, “If you, like me, have said too many yeses and found that all that hopeful, exciting intention has actually left you scraped raw and empty, the word that can change everything is ‘No.’ I know, I don’t like it either. ‘Yes’ is fun and sparkly and printed on tote bags. What if you saw someone wearing a sweatshirt that just said ‘No?’ I do not want to sit next to that bundle of fun. But ‘No’ became the scalpel I wielded as I remade my life.” ®
Looking at this New Year, 2023, God wants to give you a gift/scalpel to remake your life, to make more space for Him, because God generally won’t FORCE His way… HONK the horn, “I demand my space in your life,” He waits for you to make some space.
The Bible is filled with some amazing “No’s, wonderful “No’s, glorious “No’s.”
There’s a man named Joseph who was given a great dream by God, but then nothing went right for him…, but then the wife of his master invites him into a sexual relationship and I’m sure he had a lot of reasons to think he deserved to have a little pleasure, but because he knows his identity/mission, he…, “No.”
There are 3 young men, Mishael, Hannaniah, and Azariah (their Hebrew names instead of pagan names) who are told by a king to bow down and worship his idol or be thrown into a fiery furnace, but because they know their identity and mission they…, “No.”
There was a great leader named Nehemiah, God gave him a mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but there were some powerful people who didn’t like what he was doing. And these powerful men ask him to come down off the wall to meet with them, which sounds like a reasonable request, most of us would have…, “Sure, let’s talk,” but Nehemiah knew they were just trying to interrupt him so he…, “I am doing a great work for God here and I cannot come down off this wall. Why should the work stop while I go down to you?” Four times they sent this same message to Nehemiah and 4 times he gave the same answer, “No, no, no, no, I know identity/mission!”
Principle: If you are clear on your identity/mission you will get clear on when to…, “No,” but you have to know who you are and what you are called to do.
Some of you are…, “God is really into this word, ‘No!’ He likes it when people deprive themselves by…, ‘No,’” and that misses the point entirely, because “No” is not about depravation, it’s a SCALPEL you can wield to remake your life, “The problem with my life is it’s just crammed so full of stuff, burdens/obligations/busyness/hurry that are robbing me of life because there’s no space FOR God… TO just be alive.”
The reason to say, “No” to a lesser good is so you can say, “Yes” to a greater good. The good news is there is a man who lived on this earth who mastered LIFE… the ART of “No” and His name is Jesus and His ministry, interestingly enough, doesn’t start out with a great “Yes,” it starts out with 3 GREAT “No’s.”
Context: In Luke 4:1-4 Jesus has just been baptized…, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
OK, this, “Bread alone,” statement was actually written in the O.T. book of Deuteronomy, Jesus is quoting Moses. Moses was reflecting on what God had done for Israel and he says to the Israelites, “He (God) humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:3
Israel had been taught that man lives by “Bread alone” because they had come out of Egypt where they were slaves for 400 years, and their jobs as slaves was to build storehouses to store grain for bread. So they were taught in Egypt, “You cannot trust that there will be enough. You have to have more and more and more,” the lesson that was rooted in them by the Egyptians for 400-yrs was, “It’s OK to ENSLAVE human beings… CAUSE them to live in miserable conditions so that the people in power could have more.”
So, after God delivered them out of Egypt and lead them into the wilderness, He had to teach them a spiritual/economic lesson that would need to go really deep…, “No, to your ways of provision. I will provide for you, I want you to trust in Me.”
Here’s the 1st temptation that we all need to say “No” to – “You Are What You Have.”
The world wants to convince you, “You are what you have. You should live by bread alone.”
When the Bible talks about, “Bread,” it’s not talking about the stuff we make toast out of, “Bread” is a symbol that represents the acquisition of material goods, “Define yourself by the stuff you have. You should never have an appetite that does not get satisfied. It’s Ok to build your identity on just having a lot of nice stuff: a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, nice clothes, a lot of money because You Are What You Have.” Every one of us hear that voice a hundred times every single day!
You will hear that little voice, whatever “bread alone” (That item) looks like for you.
Quote from Miroslav Volf: “When we live by bread alone, there is never enough bread. Not enough even when we make so much of it that most of it rots away. When we live by bread alone, we always want more and better bread.”
So that’s temptation #1 – “You Are What You Have,” you will hear every day of this week, so here is practice #1 – “Do Without Some Stuff.”
The Bible word for this is, to FAST.
To FAST means I temporarily/intentionally refrain from consuming what I ordinarily consume in order to MAKE space for God… FIND out what happens to my life when I’m not gratifying myself with that stuff for a while, because I don’t really know how dependent I am on it, or, what it does in me until I close myself off from it for a little while.
Now, there are a couple of things about what fasting is NOT from a Bible perspective.
Fasting is not a way to try to get God to give you what you really, really want. Sometimes people will think, “If I go on a hunger strike God will see how serious I am and be so impressed that He’ll give me what I’m asking for.” God is not that kind of person.
Fasting is not the same thing as dieting. There is no, “How to look good naked” fast in-Bible.
Don’t Miss This: When I fast, I am dealing with my life as somebody with appetite. You see, when you came into this world, you were a little bundle of appetites, in fact, it’s almost all you were at first.
You were kind of like this character from Sesame Street, Cookie Monster. “What is Cookie Monster’s philosophy of life?” ~ “See cookie, want cookie, eat cookie,” and there are really smart people who stay up really late at night trying to dream up ways to convince you that you are nothing more than Cookie Monster, and you have a wider variety and more expensive line of Oreos and Chips Ahoy. (Clothes, cars and houses, etc.)
When I fast, I learn/teach my body that it is possible to have an unsatisfied appetite and still survive, in fact, I eventually learn it’s possible to have an unsatisfied appetite and thrive.
So you might try fasting from FOOD, and if you’ve never done that before you could just skip one meal, like at dinner, skip that until the next morning at breakfast. “Breakfast” meaning we are breaking the fast. Or you might want to make it longer, maybe a 24hr fast… ! And what will happen is, I will find out a little bit more about what role food plays in me, and I’ll be reminded how dependent I am on God, that I’m not Superman and what a slender thread my life hangs by.
You might want to fast from SHOPPING. Maybe spending money is what may have a hold on you, and you want to learn, “How can I learn to thrive when I’m not gratifying the appetite to buy more stuff?”
Maybe it’s an ELECTRONIC FAST. You know, there are people who work hard to think of ways to get you more attached to a smart phone. There was a group of people sitting around a table one time and one of them…, “I have an idea. When people get texts, we could have this little thing go buzz.” How many of you ever notice that buzz? You know, this thing doesn’t have to buzz, God did not make this to buzz. There’s a reason behind that buzz, so every time a text comes in, you think, “Uh-oh. I might be missing something, I’d better stop whatever I’m doing with this person and check this,” and people are getting buzzed all the time, the average person now looks at their phone 150 times a day. What would my life be like if I trained myself to turn my mind and my body toward God 150 times a day?
OK that’s the 1st temptation, to believe, “You Are What You Have” and the practice is “Do Without Some Stuff.”
Let’s read about the 2nd temptation,
v-5-8, The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor… If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,’” the idea here is, “Jesus, you have amazing powers and you could USE them to do what no one has ever done… HAVE the most impressive resume anybody ever had.”
Here’s the 2nd Temptation – “You Are What You Do.”
Worship your work! Sacrifice your life, your heart, soul, family, on the altar of achievement.
The 2nd Temptation is, “You Are What You Do. If you don’t do much, you are not much,” man, do we hear that one a lot, so here’s the 2nd Practice, “Do Less.”
In the Bible, doing without is called, “Fasting,” but doing less is called “Sabbath,” just regularly have a day where you’re not working… creating value… being important… carrying the world on your shoulders, you’re just alive, like a little child, enjoying life, enjoying God, resting in God.
It’s so interesting, with Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, He’s led into the wilderness by the HS and for 40 days He doesn’t DRAW a crowd… TEACH… RECRUIT a team… TRAIN a disciple… HEAL a disease, He does nothing, because nothing is really important to do for people who are doing a lot, for people who are tempted to think, “You Are What You Do.”
So maybe the practice for you this week is “Sabbath,” to have a day a week where you don’t do anything work related, a day where you have no agenda and you just sort of, “Be!”
Here’s the thing about Jesus, if you want to follow Him, you have to stay behind Him, as He leads you. Sometimes, just as He did with His disciples, He slows down, or He would stop there…
With the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, when His disciples returned, they thought he had eaten because He was refreshed. Refreshing begins by quality time apart from your agenda and on God’s agenda.
The world…, “You Are What You Do,” so maybe your practice is sabbath, “Do Less.”
One last temptation, V-9, The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”‘ When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time, here’s the temptation, “Jesus, you could do something so spectacular that would make everybody go, ‘Wow!’ You could be the golden boy. You could make everybody applaud you.”
The 3rd Temptation is, “You Are What People Think of You.”
This is the voice of our world, “
- You Are What You Have,
- You Are What You Do,
- You Are What People Think Of You, so you’d better BE spectacular… PLEASE people… GET people to approve of you, because if they disapprove of you, oh how awful that will be. How terrible it would be for somebody to not think as highly of me as they ought to think of me,” and this becomes this kind of ADDICTION… SLAVERY.
Think about Jesus, we’re talking about Jesus, the sinless Son of God,
Question, “Who in His Life did Jesus not disappoint?”
It’s amazing when you go thru it, he disappoints the CROWD…,
“We want you to be our king because you could defeat our enemies,” he…,
“No”… RELIGIOUS leaders…, “You are not living up to our standards of righteousness. You are hanging out with the wrong people. Stop doing that,” he…,
“No”… MOM and his brothers…, “You’re acting crazy. You need to come home and stop all this insanity,” he…,
“No” … HEROD…, “Do a miracle so I can be wowed,” he…,
“No”… JAMES/JOHN…, “Let us sit one on your right and one on your left,” he…,
“No,” he disappointed just about everybody in His life except His FATHER.
That’s the voice of our world, “You Are what People Think of You,” so the practice around this one is, this next week, “Do Without Human Approval.”
Let somebody be disappointed in you and be OK with that. Say “No” to something that you really need to…, “No” to and then when somebody is not happy, just be OK with that, don’t try to CHANGE their mind… MAKE sure your reputation with them is OK, because you are not
1) What you have,
2) What you do,
3) Who people think of you, here’s your identity,
You are the Son /Daughter of God!
Jesus had to say “No” his entire life, it wasn’t just at the beginning, over and over right up until the very end when Jesus was hanging on a cross, the crowd is yelling out, “You saved others. Save yourself. Come down from that cross,” and Jesus, while He is dying, says one last great “No…,” and that no became God’s “Yes” to the human race. The cross, which looks like the triumph of “No,” actually becomes God’s “Yes” of redemption and forgiveness and grace and life and love to the human race.
Something to think about:
For many, saying “no” can be hard. As believers in Christ, we’re taught that we need to serve — that we need to think of others above ourselves. And that’s true. But serving others doesn’t mean you say yes to everything. If you say yes to everything, you may be robbing someone else of the blessing that he or she is supposed to say yes to. On the other hand, saying yes to everything could be distracting you, causing you to miss out the blessing the Lord has for YOU. The bottom line is, ask the Lord what He has for you to do and be open to being led by Holy Spirit.
EMIC Groups Pastor